After getting the government to relax the conditions for undertaking an “indefinite fast”, the Anna Hazare camp is now set for some hard bargaining on provisions of the lokpal bill — a process that could be much more difficult than wrangling the permission to protest.
Government sources said there was reluctance to make “political contact” with the Hazare camp at this stage — but the Congress had, nevertheless, established a Track II channel of communication with Team Anna.A Congress leader said the party had roped in a Maharashtra-based social activist to mediate between the government and Hazare, whose protest has caught the imagination of thousands of people across the country.
Former Karnataka lokayukta Santosh Hegde, who is part of Team Anna, signalled a possible softening of stand. He said he might be able to persuade his colleagues not to be adamant on the inclusion of the prime minister and judiciary under the ambit of the lokpal if the government agreed on the other issues.
But the government’s official stand is that the parliamentary standing committee examining the lokpal bill could be the
only forum for negotiations, government sources added.
“We have had a fruitful round of discussions with Hazare’s team. We will meet them again, and go clause by clause and see how best we can arrive at a common ground,” said Abhishek Manu Singhvi, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee that has the mandate to report its recommendations on the bill to Parliament.
But the Anna camp, which will move to the Ramlila Maidan on Friday, wants more.
Riding high on their ‘victory’ — in making the government backtrack on Hazare’s fast — Prashant Bhushan, a key member of Team Anna, said: “The demands we are making cannot be accommodated by adjusting the existing bill. The government draft has to go lock, stock and barrel.”
A Congress leader termed this demand “unacceptable”.
For now, the government is looking at a four-day window — given that an average fast cannot go beyond seven days and Hazare has already completed three days of fasting — and hoping that sober voices within civil society would help tone down the rhetoric and allow the two sides arrive at a middle path or that public enthusiasm would wane once Hazare, who will be checked thrice daily by a government doctor, is moved to a hospital.
Team Anna refused to get into details, but said: “The government might be misreading the public mood, again.”